To the outside observer, Yuja Wang, may seem more like a Rock ‘n’ Roll star than a concert pianist. With her outlandish dress sense and shock of black hair that would make Sid Vicious weep, the Chinese musician does not necessarily fit the stereotype of a classical virtuoso.
In person, the 29-year-old seems an effulgent, if slightly idiosyncratic character. Her smile is infectious, her laugh even more so, and she doesn’t immediately appear to be the one who is currently turning the world of classical music on its head. Yuja Wang’s playing bears all the hallmarks of a gifted pianist: an energetic joie-de-vivre coupled with unbelievable dexterity; a genius that transcends the tradition of classical piano. Such brilliance from the young starlet has earned her a spot at Beijing’s National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) as its first artist in residence, comprising six curated concerts, as well as masterclasses, lectures, and more.
But beneath the bright and bubbly persona and incredible skill, there is a Daedalian, almost contumacious streak to the musician.
Born in 1987 in Beijing to a dancer mother and percussionist father, Wang began studying piano at the age of six. A year later she began a three-year course at the Chinese capital’s Central Conservatory of Music, after which she travelled alone to study at the Mount Royal Conservatory in Canada. By 15 she had been accepted into the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, studying under renowned piano teacher Gary Graffman.